Virginia Tech football: Thomas, offense struggle in spring game against backups


Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer watches his staff and players during the first day of spring practice on March 27. (Matt Gentry/AP)

When Virginia Tech running back Trey Edmunds heard the format and rosters for Saturday’s spring game, he presumed a comeback was expected. Cornerback Kyle Fuller figured it would be no problem. Defensive end James Gayle even thought it would be “cake.”

But with backups spotted a 13-point lead against the starting offense and defense, Virginia Tech’s annual orange and white game didn’t go as planned. The white team, composed almost entirely of reserves, defeated the orange team, 27-9, in front of a crowd of approximately 25,000 at Lane Stadium that grew increasingly anxious as the Hokies’ revamped offense sputtered.

The orange and white teams combined to average just four yards per play, gained only 23 rushing yards on 41 carries, went a combined 3 of 23 on third down, failed to convert on its lone chance in the red zone and mustered one offensive touchdown the entire afternoon.

“Today is kind of where we are right now,” Coach Frank Beamer said. “Good defense. Good kicking game. And an offense that’s gotta function better.”

Quarterback Logan Thomas, who was named one of the team’s most valuable players this spring, was unable to show off the progress new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has raved about throughout the spring. The senior completed 16 of his 29 passes for 214 yards and threw three interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns by backup defensive backs Der’Woun Greene and Donovan Riley of the white team.

Thomas’s understudy, redshirt junior Mark Leal, orchestrated Virginia Tech’s only touchdown drive. Wide receiver Joshua Stanford (team-high 86 receiving yards) tried to take the blame for Thomas’s second pick-six interception, citing his own poor route running, and Thomas was quick to note the Hokies have only about 25 percent of Loeffler’s playbook installed at this point.

But it was hard to ignore the Thomas’s struggles against a defensive unit that didn’t feature any starters. His first interception, which Greene returned 98 yards, came after the Hokies failed to score on three straight running plays inside the 5-yard line. The third turnover, an overthrow by Thomas intended for wide receiver D.J. Coles, went to redshirt sophomore T.J. Shaw, a seldom-used safety best known for being Virginia Tech’s triple option scout team quarterback when it faces Georgia Tech.

“People are gonna say I had a bad day, but you know, I can’t complain with how I played. I threw the ball where I wanted to. I was hitting my spots,” said Thomas, who threw all three interceptions during the first half.

Despite that sentiment, all involved agreed adapting to Loeffler’s scheme remains a work in progress. Most notably, the tailback position remains in flux. Running backs Michael Holmes, Edmunds and J.C. Coleman each gained 22 yards or less Saturday, and coaches have conceded the three-way competition will stretch into the summer.

Beamer, though, tried to keep the day in perspective, since it wasn’t necessarily indicative of how Virginia Tech performed in the 14 spring practices prior to Saturday.

“It’s not so important where we are today. It’s important where we can get to when we line up against Alabama,” said Beamer, referencing Virginia Tech’s season opener against the Crimson Tide. “We don’t have to be the same group going up against Alabama that we were today.”

Note: Gayle was also honored as the defense’s MVP this spring. Offensive tackle Laurence Gibson and defensive end Dadi Nicolas were recognized as the most improved players this spring. Freshman offensive tackle Jonathan McLaughlin and freshman cornerback Brandon Facyson, who both enrolled in school early for spring practice, were named the team’s top newcomers.

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